Governor General David Hurley made Scott Morrison wait longer to be formally appointed to the secret portfolios he applied for in 2021 compared to the start of the pandemic, documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws show .

It took Hurley two weeks to sign the instrument making Morrison Treasurer and Home Secretary after the Prime Minister requested those additional powers in April 2021.

Morrison’s request to be appointed to administer the health department was dated March 13, 2020, and Hurley signed that instrument – released last month by the Prime Minister and Cabinet Department – the following day, March 14.

Morrison’s application to administer the finance department was stamped on March 30, 2020, and Hurley’s instrument was signed the same day.

The letters Morrison signed and sent to Hurley recommending the additional portfolio appointments were obtained by Guardian Australia under FoI laws.

Morrison’s 2021 letters to the Governor-General gave no official basis for his request for swearing in the Industry, Treasury or Home Affairs portfolios. His earlier requests in March 2020 to be granted the power to administer the health and finance departments made specific reference to the Covid pandemic.

“The severity of the coronavirus crisis demands that we be prepared for all eventualities. In the event that the Minister of Health, the Honorable Greg Hunt MP, is unavailable to exercise his significant powers as Minister of Health, I consider it appropriate for another senior Minister to exercise in an emergency,” Morrison wrote in the March 2020 health letter.

“To facilitate this eventuality, I recommend that you appoint me, in addition to my current appointment, to administer the Ministry of Health.”

The letter for finance is nearly identical, simply replacing Hunt’s name for then finance minister Mathias Cormann.

A different course of events – and letter form – was used in later recommendations to Hurley.

Morrison’s request to the Governor-General to administer the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (Diser) was stamped April 12, 2021, but Hurley’s instrument was signed three days later. late April 15.

Morrison’s letter recommending he be appointed to the Treasury and Home Affairs Departments was stamped April 22, 2021. Hurley did not sign the instrument to that effect until May 6, 2021 – 14 days later.

The Governor General public program states that Hurley was working as usual during this time, attending many events in Canberra and Darwin.

Guardian Australia asked the Governor General’s office if there was a reason for the subsequent delays. Hurley’s office did not specify what legal advice or information he might have sought before each appointment.

Morrison’s letters recommending appointments in industry, treasury and home affairs did not mention Covid – unlike previous correspondence.

“I am writing to recommend a change in the arrangements for the appointment of a Minister…my recommendation is that you appoint me, as Prime Minister, to administer the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources [Diser] to enable me to be the Minister responsible for matters within this portfolio, if and when required,” Morrison wrote on April 12, 2021.

The same wording was used in the April 22 letter regarding Treasury and Home Affairs.

Morrison defended secret ministries, saying the appointments were made as a “precaution”. When asked last month why he appointed himself to Treasury and Home Affairs in April 2021, Morrison said it was because the pandemic was continuing.

“Covid was still real in 2021…did you think there was no possibility of it happening again? As he did? he said.

Diser’s appointment was the exception, with Morrison seeking powers over that portfolio to make the decision to block the Pep-11 gas exploration project.

“I only did that in particular in portfolios of significant importance, that is Treasury and Home Affairs, because there were unilateral decision-making powers of ministers,” Morrison told reporters. in mid-August.

“After we got through the initial phase and the pandemic continued, we took the precaution of putting them in place in those other important portfolios where there were unilateral decision-making powers over ministers that were not subject to cabinet. »

Morrison also defended his decision to keep the appointments of other ministers already in those portfolios largely secret.

“I think there was a great risk that in the midst of this crisis these powers would be misinterpreted and misunderstood, which would have caused unnecessary angst in the midst of a pandemic,” he said.

Morrison wrote in the last two letters to Hurley that “as this change is of an administrative nature only, I would not need to take the oath” – a line not included in previous letters.

The former prime minister’s actions are being investigated by former High Court judge Virginia Bell. This week, she asked for submissions from the public to “inform the investigation.”

Current Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said it would be “amazing” if Morrison did not cooperate with the investigation, warning that compulsory powers could be used if he refused.

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